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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Sox Baseball?† Count me in!
by Hal Vickery

Somehow it happens every year, even in this winter of our discontent.† The moment the day arrives when pitchers and catchers report to spring training camp, all of the frustration disappears.† Suddenly it is spring again and hope replaces the despair of winter.†

The first glimmer of that hope arrives at the end of January when the arrival of SoxFest reminds us that even though the temperature is hovering somewhere around zero, spring training is just around the corner.†

Next pitchers and catchers report, and then the position players arrive. The realization comes that weíve survived another winter and baseball season is just weeks away.† And every year I get suckered in!†

I have to confess.† As we took our Presidentsí Day holiday, I started looking at the schedule Iíd picked up at SoxFest.† Weíd already purchased our tickets for Kane County and Joliet Jackhammers games, and I started looking at dates for Sox games.†

My original intent was to pick out nine games that my son Jeff and I would attend, and leave it at that in light of the price increases and the change from seven-game packages to nine-game deals.† Itís one thing to commit to fourteen games and another to commit to eighteen.† †

I guess I should explain that since Jeff has grown up and moved out of the house, weíve kind of agreed that his big present for the year (call it a combined Christmas/birthday package) is for me to pick up the tab for ticket packages for some minor league games and some Sox games.† In addition, I also pick up a package for myself for Sox games.†

In the past that has meant committing in February to fourteen games, but now with the new Sox package, thatís up to eighteen.† And that was my thought.† But then I made a fatal error.†

Instead of leaving it at that, I made a list of nine more games that I might like to see.† I told myself I was doing that ďjust for the heck of it.Ē† I even told Jeff on the phone before I got online to order that I was only buying the two tickets for our games.†

I think that was the problem.† If I would have had to fax in or mail in the order, I would have been fine.† My wife had a doctorís appointment on the sixteenth, so I ordered the tickets before we left.† Then I started thinking about spring training coming up.† I started thinking about sitting in the stands and watching games at The Cell.†

When I got home, the urge was too great.† I went to the White Sox web and ordered a ticket package for those other nine games.† I couldnít help myself.† There is just something about baseball that lures me in every year.†

And I guess maybe thatís the whole point.† I immerse myself in the White Sox 365 days a year.† If Iím not thinking about what I want to write about, Iím reading and posting on message boards here or on AOL or writing emaisl to Brian Crawfordís White Sox Mailing List.† †

In addition the 2004 season will be my fiftieth year as a Sox fan.† I can still remember seeing the brick faÁade of old Comiskey Park (before Bill Veeck painted it white) for the first time in 1956.† I can still remember what it was like emerging from the entrance and seeing the green grass, light brown infield dirt, and white and gray uniforms for the first time.†

Suddenly when spring training arrives, Iím no longer the cynical adult who believes that Sox ownership is driving this franchise into the ground.† For a brief time, that usually lasts until the Sox break camp and head north with a club that is decidedly worse than any other in the division, Iím that kid with unquestioning loyalty to the White Sox.†

Instead of Buehrle, Loaiza, Garland, and who knows what after that, Iím thinking about Billy Pierce, Jack Harshman, and Dick Donovan, and even Bob Keegan, who pitched that first game I saw at Comiskey (Sox won 2-1).† Iím thinking of Aparicio, Fox, Lollar, Minoso, and even Dave Philley or Ron Northey.†

But itís not just that.† Itís the game itself.† Itís the tension of a pitcherís duel, the elation of a game-winning hit in the bottom of the ninth, the joy of a blowout.† Itís even the disappointment after a loss and the despair following the loss of a big game.†

Itís sitting in the sun or relaxing on a warm summerís night, grabbing a kosher dog or steak sandwich or corned beef sandwich and a beer or a coke.† Itís the obsession with keeping score of every game, to have a record, even though Iíll probably never go back and look at it again.†

Itís remembering my dad taking me on that sixty-some mile drive back in the pre-Dan Ryan days, when to get to the park you had to go past the stockyards.† Itís remembering my grandpa telling me about Ed Walsh, Buck Weaver, and Joe Jackson just as I told Jeff about Aparicio, Fox, Minoso, Pierce, and Wynn.†

You can trace my spring elation if you go back to the archives.† Sometime around the end of March I always seem to write an optimistic article about the Soxí chances for the year.† Within a month or so, Iím generally back in attack mode, trying to find the cause of our dismal start.†

So I guess thatís it.† As long as Iím breathing, Iíll love the Sox, and Iíll go to The Cell.† Iíll buy those tickets in February and wonder in June why I bother going to so many games.† And I guess thatís my response to those who have asked me, ďIf you canít stand Reinsdorf so much, why do you continue to support him financially?Ē†

I guess the answer is because the club is bigger than any owner.† The game is bigger than any group of idiot owners who canít seem to act in the best interests of the game.† Itís bigger than any Commissioner who is a puppet of those owners.† Itís bigger than any loudmouthed malcontented millionaire player or sluggers who get their power from a needle.†

When he was dying, Babe Ruth called baseball ďthe only real game.Ē† He talked about how you begin as a child and how it follows you through your life.† I remember playing catch with my dad, not passing a football.† †

Itís a game we take for granted, but if it suddenly disappeared, even those who donít consider themselves fans would miss it.† It is truly the greatest game invented.†

So Iíll probably continue to complain about the Sox and their ownership ten or eleven months out of the year.† But when spring comes, Iíll continue to revert back to childhood and hope, even when there is little reason to do so, that this will be the year the Sox put it all together and win it all.†

†And Iíll keep buying those tickets, as illogical as it may seem.


Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at hvickery@svs.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

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